By Jean Christou
Disabled people in Cyprus have an 11 per cent higher risk of poverty than their able-bodied counterparts, according to a Eurostat survey carried out ahead of Wednesday’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
And when it came to the employment of disabled people in Cyprus, the figures showed that while the employment rate for persons with no disabilities was 70 per cent, less than one in two disabled people are employed (46.4 per cent). The figures are roughly in line with the EU average – 66.9 per cent and 47.3 per cent respectively.
According to Eurostat, the share of disabled people aged 16 and over being at risk of poverty or social exclusion is higher than for non-disabled people in all EU28 Member States.
The largest differences between the share of disabled people and non-disabled people being at risk of poverty or social exclusion were observed in Bulgaria (63.7 per cent for disabled people compared with 44.1 per cent for non-disabled people), followed by Belgium, Estonia and the United Kingdom. In Cyprus, while 25.7 per cent of non-disabled people were at risk of poverty, this rose to 36.7 for disabled people.
The smallest differences were recorded in Greece – 36.8 per cent for disabled people compared with 34.5 per cent for non-disabled people. Most likely the narrow gap is due to the economic crisis, which has raised the risk of poverty for able-bodied people in Greece.
Around 44 million people aged 15 to 64 in the EU28 have reported a disability often preventing them from taking part fully in society and the economy. Whether in the labour market, in the education system or for social inclusion indicators, the situation of disabled persons in the EU28 is less favourable than that of nondisabled people, Eurostsat said.
The gap existing between non-disabled and disabled persons was also noticeable for social inclusion: while the at-risk of poverty or social exclusion rate was just over 20 per cent for non-disabled people aged 16 and over this share stood at almost 30 per cent for disabled persons.
In a written message on Tuesday, Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou said International Day of Persons with Disabilities was a reminder that people with disabilities were entitled to equal opportunities in life, at work and in everyday life.
She said the government had in July 2013 approved the first National Action Plan on Disability.
Those involved were tasked to come up with measures in the areas of information, independent living, employment, education, health and rehabilitation, accessibility to the environment and to transport, she said.
“Inequalities, fewer opportunities and social exclusion will not disappear completely. However they can be reduced and this is the strategy we are pursuing in Cyprus,” Emilianidou added.
“Disability affects all of us. It affects people who face mobility, visual, auditory, mental or psychological limitations on their lives, together with obstacles in their environment. It’s about their families and other people in their environment. It’s about institutions of the state related to human rights and government agencies that can take steps to support and empower people with disabilities. Dignity is their right.”
By Jean Christou